Hello my name is, Steve. I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. When I was a kid our family’s summer vacations were trips to Arkansas to visit my grandparents; our initial trip included our mother, my older brother, Fred, younger sister, Linda, and myself.
My last trip down there I was fifteen and included Mom, Fred, Linda, David born in 1960 and Peggy, born in ’63. All except Fred and I made future visits. Fred and I stayed in St. Paul with our dad helping him with his work (glad he had patience with us.) Yes, there are five kids in the family I graduated high school, took a trip around half of this country and parts of Canada, and got married just before Christmas that same year, December 23, 1972. I worked as a house painter for a couple years. I applied for, but was turned down for a student loan at the School of Associated Arts (Dad made too much money, she said.) When the lady gave me that surprising news, she also told me to file for a grant. I reasoned that if I could not get a loan, surely I would never get a grant but I filled out the necessary paperwork and I waited for what seemed like an eternity. Three months later, I joined the Navy. I would depart for San Diego in six months; the beginning of the year and I hoped, a better beginning. While sitting in boot camp and shining my shoes we had mail call. I received a letter from the financial aid department of that school…the grant had been approved. I am fifty-six years old and was in a near-fatal car accident at age thirty-four. I was pronounced dead twice while in a two-month long coma and given “Last Rites.” My family was told I would be an invalid – a vegetable, if I were to live. But, I did survive and so much more, as, I hope you will see. My life has been one continuous trial since that time, July 31, 1988. Two months after awakening from the coma my wife of sixteen years divorced me but not until I signed a paper giving her guardianship over all my matters. A couple months went by and I was left with nothing except my garden tractor, but of course, I no longer had a garden to use it in. I sold it immediately for some cash, because the ex also conned me out of my first disability check. Nancy sold the new home I had built in 1984 when times were good; the home was built in the country on eight acres of land. I was not allowed to visit that home, my home, and received a relative pittance of the value when she sold it.
As stated above, the car accident happened in ’88 and so half of that year and more than half of ’89 was spent in one hospital or another, one nursing home or another and a rehabilitation center for people with severe head trauma, out of state. While at New Medico, I began thinking that I was put there to be out of everybody’s way, but soon realized and kept repeating to myself that it was I, who tried and succeeded to be accepted at that institution. I completed my time there in August of 1989. Autumn 1989, I began wondering how I would ever be able to earn a living again after all had been taken from me…even parts of my mind and many physical abilities. Well, I decided that it would need to be a ground up restoration and what better place to begin than with light courses at a school. January 1990: While at Inver Hills C. C. where my English instructor liked my writing as did, Don, the head librarian where I worked part-time. My goal had forever changed…be it unconsciously. He prompted me to take some classes at, “The Loft” (A place for writers) because he said, “You have something to write about, and you belong there.” I took his advice and signed up for a creative non-fiction course. The title for a book I wrote, “A Day I’ll Never Remember” was thought of while in that class sharing critiques on our manuscripts; everybody in that class thought it a perfect title. One of my classmates took the writing home to critique it. When she returned to class the following week she told me her friend from New York was visiting and he was an exec from CBS. He saw the partial story and wanted a ten page synopsis of the book, she said, to make a movie from the story. Well I’m sure it was just a coincidence but I saw the movie, “Regarding Henry” and it mirrored my story in every aspect except in how it happened and the fact that Henry’s wife did not divorce him. Anyway, the book was never published and after reading it aloud, I understood why; but the ideas were all laid out. That was my first attempt at writing anything. After my college tries and failures (I had problems reading a page because the words always moved around on me, my vision were unable to view the entire page and I had extreme short-term memory loss. I would read a page but when I turned that to the next I had forgotten what the article or story was about. It made me think of when I was at the rehab center (New Medico) and one of the patients would tell a joke and everyone would laugh, then in a matter of minutes Kevin would say, “Did you hear the one about…” and begin to repeat the same one; and he would laugh hysterically. I think I could write an entire article on that place as I could so many of the situations I have been through. Ideally I think I would like to write for the adolescent crowd; would that be possible? I attended college and one of my first classes taken was speech because I was embarrassed of my new sound and needed to become confident with my voice. I reasoned that speaking in front of others would do the trick. I received a 3.5 GPA in that class though I worked terribly hard just to maintain a 2.5 GPA over all. One quarter at the University of Minnesota following two and a half years at a community college and I could tell that sort of schooling was not in the cards; my high hopes were snuffed out. I then attended the, Ramsey County Opportunities and Industrialization Center (RCOIC) learning how to use the computer. A brief stint at the Minnesota Department of Transportation followed. Continued physical therapy, speech and occupational therapy were never able to bring back the Steve I knew and it was very expensive. I was not even able to afford the co-pays. I found an English-speaking land, The Philippine Islands (Third-World Country) where the therapy would be more than affordable and so I lived there for approximately five years, and though the therapy was good, it was not progressive. I have two daughters – by their mother – (my first wife, Nancy). Angela is my eldest daughter at thirty-five years and has blessed me with a grandson who is fourteen, tall and handsome. Her sister, Anna, is thirty-four and has given me two beautiful granddaughters, thirteen and fourteen. The grandkids get a kick out of calling my youngest daughter, who is half their ages, aunt. Stephanie is by far the youngest at only seven years. She was born in Bataan Province, Philippines. She came into the world a month and a half early and at our home. It was almost impossible to get her into a hospital in the nearest bigger city (Balanga) from where we were in Limay. A Filipina friend, Juliet, heard my child was born (12:09 A.M. Bataan Day in the Philippines) and was knocking at the door at 5 A. M. She agreed with me that Stephanie’s hairline and cuticles were turning black and offered to get an ambulance from the nearby clinic. You should have seen the (third-world) ambulance to take her to the hospital… just an old Toyota van with the word ambulance printed (the printing was backwards, the decal was not placed properly) on the front and side. Driving was a teenage kid, and his girlfriend. They looked as if they’d just gotten in from an all-nighter? There were two single seats in the back, Juliet, sat in one holding the baby and I sat facing her in the other. A Gurney with frayed edges on the mattress and with no sheet lay across from us. But what was I to expect? This was so unlike an American ambulance. There were no trained paramedics. It was not equipped for anything. It was just a loud clanging empty shell (Dad used a shell van like that in the early years of his decorating business so it was kind of nostalgic) and there was even a used spare tire sliding around on the dirty floor at each start and stop. The siren was useless because many jeepney (an inexpensive, open-air elongated jeep used for public transportation) drivers had similar sounding horns that went off every time their brakes were tapped. We got to the first hospital (Women’s Hospital) and after Juliet (she knew the Tagalog language) had checked Stephanie in and the nurse examined her… we were told they had no bed available with an incubator. It was onto another hospital via tricycle (motorcycle with a noisy 2-stroke (lawnmower) engine and side car). Steph was all bundled up in the 95˚heat and 70% humidity; it was a jungle you know (at one time).
Her head was covered to keep out pollution and smog, somewhat, definitely not because it was cold. Once at Doctor’s Hospital, we were immediately taken upstairs (no elevator) to her private room…Women’s Hospital had called and told them we’d be bringing the baby so they had the room all ready, but still no incubator. After four days (I stayed with her every second) she was able to suck from her bottle and take nourishment on her own. She was released and we went home. She was home for only four days and we had to get her in for a blood transfusion and she was not feeding again and was turning yellow. We took her to a nearby clinic and this time was diagnosed as needing a total blood transfusion and she had, yellow jaundice.
Hospitalized again, this time for ten days and again; I remained with her every second for the duration. The poor, little angel was not much bigger than a newspaper.
Then once she was healthy and strong we began taking the necessary steps to obtain her U. S citizenship. We got her passport and flew to America in May of 2004. Here in the U. S. A. for roughly a year she was diagnosed with autism. Daily reading, playing fun games and doing fun exercises paid off because she was able to begin school without a need for “special education”. Stephanie has been reading and comprehending since the age of four and is now in the first grade and in an advanced reading class…and is the top reader in that class, I was told by her teacher. Her mother and I divorced in 2006 and I have been raising Stephanie gleefully and with great success. Honestly, I have so much to write about! One story leads to another and another and so it goes…